Nick Saban just won his fifth national title, the fourth as coach of Alabama, and he's carrying himself with the confidence of a man who is borderline untouchable in the world of college football. He spent the offseason as a self-appointed spokesperson for the game while addressing satellite camps, and his appearance in Hoover, Alabama, at the 2016 SEC Media Days has already created a firestorm of reactions from across the college football world.
The big news of the day came from Saban's confirmation that star tackle Cam Robinson and reserve defensive back Laurence "Hootie" Jones are unlikely to be suspended, but will rather face internal discipline, after arrests on drug and weapons charges in Louisiana. Robinson was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance and illegal possession of a stolen firearm, while Jones was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
The district attorney chose not to prosecute, and Saban has decided that both players will still have a chance to compete against USC in the season opener on Sept. 3 if they continue their internal discipline, which includes weekly drug tests, drug counseling and gun education, an Alabama official told ESPN.
After his time at the podium, which did not include him being asked about Robinson once, Saban was pressed on the issue by SEC Network host Paul Finebaum. That's where Saban flexed his muscle and tried to shut down the topic with authority.
"I don't really care to answer the critics. I'm going to do what's right for the players. If the players really did anything that wrong, they would've gotten charged with something," he began. "... The district attorney didn't say what all was ... Like, there was four people in the car. Why did the two football players get arrested and the other guys did not get arrested? There's no law about concealed weapons in Louisiana ... so why did they search the car just because there was a gun on the seat? There are just a lot of questions there that are reasons there weren't charges brought against these guys.
"Do we condone the behavior? No, alright? But you're innocent until proven guilty in this country regardless of whether you get convicted in the media or not, which is what you're doing to these players. ... I'm not going to convict him in the public. You [Finebaum] said I was going to get criticized by you and the public and the media because I'm not going to suspend them. And I don't really care about that.
"That's the end of the conversation."
Here's a portion of Saban's on-air rant.
It's wild to see a coach, when being interviewed, say "that's the end of the conversation" and then have the entire panel follow his directions.
When SEC Network returned from commercial break, Finebaum, host Dari Nowkah and company discussed that Saban was incensed after the cameras were turned off, not so much at the line of questioning but rather how the situation transpired in Louisiana.
Finebaum said Saban was "as upset and angry [as I've ever seen him]."
Though neither Finebaum nor anyone else on set would relate what exactly Saban said, Finebaum did kind of give us an idea with some of his comments stemming from that Saban off-air conversation.
"He's insinuating that this was an inside job, that his players in Louisiana were being persecuted. And I believe, based on what he said, that he thinks they were being persecuted because they were in Louisiana and there was some LSU [fan] connection," Finebaum related.
AL.com caught video the off-air discussion -- unfortunately, not the audio -- which you can see below.